Bananas for Breakfast

I signed myself up for NaNoWriMo (National novel writing month) this year. It’s probably the first time I’ve actually been in a position, mental and physical health-wise, to give it a more than half-hearted try. I’m not trying to write an entirely new novel this time, but I figured it would be a good time to pull together my new outline for Somnolence and do that full reworking of it that I’ve been planning. It gives me a start and end date, plus a little bit of outside support and encouragement. I’m on track so far, which is cool.

I’ve also been experimenting with different ways to make my days more consistent. So far the weirdest but most effective thing has just been eating the exact same breakfast every day. For the past few weeks it’s been cottage cheese with a whole cut up banana and a drizzle of raspberry syrup. It’s surprisingly delicious, filling, and it gives me a decent amount of energy. The other most effective thing has been making sure that the the kitchen is always useable and cleared up for the morning, even if that means I wind up doing dishes right before bed.

This means that I don’t have to think at all when I get up. I just roll out of bed, turn on the kettle for tea, make the bed, make the tea, give the rabbit his morning salad and let him out of his pen, thaw the dog food, cut up my banana, give the rabbit the end piece of the banana so he won’t try to hop onto the table to steal it, then actually put together and eat my breakfast and drink the tea. Oh, and somewhere in there I usually shower and get dressed, too. It’s possible that part of the reason I need consistency so badly is because I have very spoiled animals, but it definitely helps to cut down on general friction in my mornings. It also cuts down completely on those super un-fun days I used to have occasionally where I would totally fail to eat any breakfast because the kitchen was a mess and/or nothing sounded edible to me, which meant I didn’t take my meds, which meant I couldn’t sort out how to fix the breakfast problem, which usually led to an eventual meltdown of sadness and starvation, and nobody wants that.

I think the next step might be to add a short after-breakfast walk for me and the dogs. Frodo seems interested in the concept, too, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t stand for a bunny leash. I’ve been trying and failing recently to keep up with my longer walks, but a quick daily walk¬† before work would probably have more of an effect on my everyday energy levels anyway, and even a short bout of exercise is supposed to help with concentration. We’ll see how that goes.

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Pretty succulents growing out of a cement wall, because plants are hardcore.

Tips for the ADHD Creative: Part One

Always always clear your workspace before going to bed.

Yeah, we’ve all been told this as kids, but I think it’s especially important for all people whose focus and executive function is naturally unreliable. I can leave a project in the middle, plan to clean up my office in the morning, and really mean it, and then it can suddenly be a week later. The office has just gotten messier, and I’ve been too stressed to go in there for days. I only know how long it’s been because my poor houseplants have shriveled up in the intervening time.

Sleep is when our brains tend to do a major reset. My mood and motivation when I wake up is at its least predictable. I may have been fired up to finish that project when I went to bed, riding high on many hours of focused effort, and I still might wake up with zero interest in continuing it right now. Then, that project is suddenly standing between me and any other work.

I tend to feel guilty when I leave something unfinished, especially if it produced some sort of mess. The guilt stops me from even wanting to clear up the project so I can do other things, because I feel that if I’m interacting with it at all, I should be finishing it.¬†This is a trap. It’s a trap I could have avoided if I had cleared up the night before, before my brain reset.

Yes, it’s a bit of a dilemma if you’ve been working for twelve hours straight, and now it’s 4am, and you desperately need to sleep so you won’t be a sad potato in the morning. You’ve got to weigh the potential results, though. If you stay up an extra hour to force yourself to tidy up while you still have a teeny bit of momentum to work with, you’ll definitely be tired in the morning. If you don’t do that, and you do go to bed, and your brain resets, and you can’t face the mess, and you can’t use your workspace for anything else until you do deal with the mess, how many hours or days will take for you to recover from that?

If you work on your couch, like I did until recently, make sure you get rid of your old coffee cups and hide the TV remote before going to bed. Fluff up your pillow. Don’t leave anything in your spot that would require an extra step before getting to work. Charge your computer. This applies to digital mess, too. If your screen is full of the thing that you were working on before, will you be able to go straight to work on other stuff, or will you panic when you open your laptop and start binge-watching Youtube videos on time management instead?

For me, this means that I have a rule now: I can’t go to bed until my desk is clear, my chair is ready to sit in, and my laptop is charging. I know from experience that the cost of me being tired in the morning is not as long-lasting as the cost of me feeling stressed about going into my office. I’d rather plop down at my desk with a cup of tea and blearily mess around until my meds kick in than spend three days avoiding my office by doing every household chore and errand I can think of and then telling myself I’ll get back to the writing work tomorrow.

Whatever the space and resources are that you need to work, make sure they’re ready to use before you do something that you know tends to reset your motivation, whether that’s sleep or video games or another activity. You can’t necessarily count on having the energy later, but you can try to help take care of your future self when you do have it in you.

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Bonus: Your office plants will look prettier.

Writing days this past week: 7